January 5, 2011
The turn of a year signals new plans and possibilities. But as 2011 kicks off, elected officials are wondering how in the face of steep federal and state deficits they'll ever have the funds to realize policy goals.
In the Marcellus Shale region, it s been tempting to plug budget holes with the quick bucks that come from issuing permits and leasing state land for gas drilling. But this stop-gap measure can also mean an increase in drilling, and with it the need for even more revenue to pay the steep costs of gas development (like road damage, toxic clean up, and health problems). Tackling those impacts requires steps many politicians are loath to take, like long-term planning, bold regulatory change and taxing industry.
Pennsylvania and New York are the only oil- and gas-producing states without a severance tax to make companies pay for the resources they sever from the land forever. Resource extraction taxes can offset the financial burden placed on public coffers and, when used appropriately, mitigate damage to drilled communities and the environment. Severance taxes vary widely in basis (value or volume), rate, and exemptions, but don't appear to deter industry from seeking the resources from which they so greatly profit.
By Alan Septoff
December 23, 2010
I wrote earlier this week that Oak Flat and Apache Leap had been successfully defended from a land swap that would have seen this publicly-owned special place (places, really) transferred into the hands of the Resolution Copper partnership so that it could be mined.
Well, that wasn't the end of the story.
The land swap was resurrected when Senator Reid put it on the unanimous consent calendar packaged with a bunch of other public land initiatives. [You might be thinking: "but nothing in the Senate gets unanimous consent!?" Well, you'd be wrong -- there's actually bunches of things passed by "UC".]
December 21, 2010
This past Wednesday, Newmont Mining announced the purchase of 18.59% of shares of Loncor Resources, a Canadian company exploring for minerals in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The Loncor concessions include sites in Orientale and in North Kivu, a zone often known for conflict.
Also on Wednesday, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released draft regulations on importation of conflict minerals from the Congo Basin. Those regulations, as well as regulations on transparency of mining company payments to foreign governments and safety of mines, are some of the implementing regulations for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
December 20, 2010
Three weeks before Christmas, the U.S. EPA issued an emergency order to protect families in southern Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth in the Barnett Shale gas field. Two residents living near gas wells had flammable, fizzy and bubbling water (video) and EPA testing determined that nearby Range Resources wells had either caused or contributed to the contamination. The order said: EPA testing has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in their water pose an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire.
For four months prior, the Texas Railroad Commission knew of the situation but hemmed and hawed, testing and retesting but failing to take any action. Yet when EPA stepped in, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones called the action premature. Commissioner Michael Williams said EPA s action was nothing more than grandstanding in an effort to interject the federal government into Texas business. Only in Texas where citizens are held prisoners to the cry of states rights by our Kabuki governor who regularly demonizes the EPA and who never met a polluter he didn t like could an action to protect citizens be called political grandstanding by a professional political grandstander.
The EPA s action is generating much scurrying about by industry and industry apologists looking for anything to blame -- anything, that is, but drilling and fracking. Their quest for a scapegoat is producing some useful information.
By Alan Septoff
December 20, 2010
Good news! Despite being included in an earlier draft of omnibus public lands legislation, the version actually introduced for debate did NOT include the poison pill land exchange.
Thanks to everyone who sent letters in to their Senators.
For those reading about this for the first time: Resolution Copper (a partnership of two of the world's largest multinational mining companies) wants to mine copper on publicly-owned land sacred to the Apache, and land specifically protected for recreation (Oak Flat campground) in Arizona.
Because this land is owned by all Americans, and mining it would destroy the campground and surrounding area, these multinationals need an act of Congress in order to acquire the land. Although they've been trying for years, they've been unsuccessful so far. And are still -- thanks again to people who made their voice heard.
And thanks to the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition for keeping up the fight.
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